“My boat struck something deep. Nothing happened. Sound, silence, waves. Nothing happened, or perhaps everything has happened, and I’m sitting in the middle of my new life.”
~Juan Ramon Jimeniz
(Note: This is the first in an upcoming series on the path of finding my life’s purpose. What was mistaken to be a straight line turned out to be a long spiral–spun inward. What I lacked in wisdom, I made up for with determination 🙂
My earliest income was from handouts in the lobby of the Acme grocery store where I begged pennies to buy the bubble gum my grandmother refused me.
After that, it was sidewalk lemonaide sales which later grew into concession stands at backyard performances. Around that time, an adult purchasing tickets for himself and his children, suggested that I could be reported to the IRS for the amount of money I was raking in. This marked the end of my for profit events. Shortly after, I began hosting Muscular Dystrophy carnivals instead.
By 12 years old, I was employed outside the home–booked every evening of the week (a month ahead of time) as a babysitter. I made 75 cents an hour, or a dollar for the Mormon families of 5 or more–and only lost one toddler while I was watching Magilla Gorilla and eating his peanutbutter graham crackers.
On the weekends, I continued my charity work, volunteering as a “candystriper”– a title that continually intrigues children.
When my family relocated from the mountains to the shore, my income opportunities expanded. I trained as a waitress, a hostess, and finally a manager (where I worked more hours and made less money than my staff.) I also did a follow up stint at the local hospital–in the morgue–but that’s another story.
In college, I mainly hit the books (and the parties) with some volunteering on the side. I helped keep a basketball player on the courts (who insisted on paying me to do his papers,which I refused–even though he was twice my size); I worked with a Korean exchange student in preparation for her LSATs (even though I knew nothing of the law), and I tutored a nun from Viet Nam in philosophy and religion (what were they thinking!)
After graduation, my boyfriend and I took off for Colorado where I taught skiing to little rich kids from Texas who had never seen snow but who within a week could ski better than me.
Upon our return to the East, I jumped into the career my father paid for–actually, it was a stumble. At the end of a uneventful day substituting as a PE teacher (which I did out of boredom and to cover my boyfriend’s spending habits), I stopped in at the office to half-heartedly inquire about a full-time position listed in the paper.
I was interviewed right there on the spot– in my sweats– and to my great dismay–hired later that evening. I was devastated. I didn’t want a real job. I loved it.
I taught blissfully (relatively) for seven years before becoming a teaching cliche. I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t even know what hit me. Only now–ten years later–can I name it.
I burnt out.
And in that failing, I died to myself as an overachieving, over-performing, overproducing employee. I’ve never been the same.
Now when people ask, I refer to myself as a “recovering teacher” (a term coined by a friend who also abandoned the profession.) But I fall off the wagon regularly.
I slink back,taking supportive roles in the field without the responsibility that strangled me–and without the creative expression and passion that keeps me alive–not to mention the dollars that pay the bills.
The decade, between ages 30 and 40, is best described with a list of the part-time jobs I held while serving full-time in the most sublime: Motherhood.
Chapter One teacher (underpaid remedial instruction)
Day care provider
Ski instructor (again!)
Summer School Teacher
Non-profit facilitator of an educational project
Free lance writer
Non-profit administrator of a business project
Pizza Counter clerk
Preschool teaching assistant
Council on Aging Coordinator
Office work in a natural health clinic
Natural Living clerk at the Co-op grocery store
Writing tutor at college
Highschool English tutor
Preschool School Board and Parent Coordinator
Preschool long-term substitute
Mentor for preschool teachers
Community sing leader
Financial Organizer for personal needs
Volunteer Coordinator at school
Kindergarten teaching assistant
It has become clear to me that NOW is the time to RECLAIM some integration in my life– some passion, some direction, and some serious cash.
But where to turn?
I still love people, learning, cultures, food, children, elders–all of that which I dedicated myself to during my forty years of living. But most of it feels differently now that I’m a mother.
Teaching is out of the question because the gift of parenting feels redundant after a day spent with other people’s children.
The demands of the restaurant industry doesn’t fit a family either.
I’m tired of coordinating or directing anything–family life meets that need more than enough.
The pizza and video clerk jobs did provide a nice kick-back and relax shift for me, but alas not income or passion producing.
Writing inspires me, but it’s not something I can fuel day in and day out.
I know that I need to be able plug into some outside energy current–at least part of the time. I need to be tied to other people, who are tied to something bigger than ourselves. I want to do something that matters–but not something that matters so much that it turns me inside out.
This quest for my passion in my life’s work is not a life-threatening question, I know. It’s not world peace, starvation, homelessness, or any of those biggies.
But it is my biggie, right now, and I feel lost. I need to see the path, the stepping stones. I need to know the way. I need to know that there is a way— for me.
So, here I am, doing job number twenty-three on the part-time waiting-for-my-life-to-jump-start-again list. This incarnation ends in June, and by the end of the summer, I’d like to have begun my new life.
So, I’m putting it out there. The Universe is on notice:
Kelly Salasin, Spring 2006
Not sure how to get started yourself? Check out author Tama Kieves recent post, Your Alternative Career Search: Relax, Heal, and Play